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Much of McChrystal’s career has been spent in the military’s secretive Special Operations community, which rarely deals with the media and often views outsiders, even those within the military, with suspicion. Some of the most damaging statements in the Rolling Stone article were from his staff officers, who are also drawn heavily from the Special Operations community.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, joined by his powerful half brother and other influential political figures, mounted a full-court press on behalf of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on Wednesday, warning that Afghanistan could not afford a change in Western military leadership now.
Numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai [the powerful half brother noted above] to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.
WASHINGTON — More than a year after the CIA's inspector general stepped down, frustrated members of Congress are urging the White House to fill the internal watchdog position that was central in uncovering abuses inside the spy agency.
"I am disturbed that it has not been filled up to this point," said Fred Hitz, who served as the CIA inspector general for eight years until 1998. "I am wondering what is going on."
The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for over seven years, has spent $177 billion in that country alone, and has the most powerful and technologically advanced military on Earth. GPS tracking devices can locate any spot imaginable by simply pushing a few buttons.
Still, bumper crops [of poppies] keep flourishing year after year, even though heroin production is a laborious, intricate process. The poppies must be planted, grown and harvested; then after the morphine is extracted it has to be cooked, refined, packaged into bricks and transported from rural locales across national borders. To make heroin from morphine requires another 12-14 hours of laborious chemical reactions. Thousands of people are involved, yet—despite the massive resources at our disposal—heroin keeps flowing at record levels.
Common sense suggests that such prolific trade over an extended period of time is no accident, especially when the history of what has transpired in that region is considered. While the CIA ran its operations during the Vietnam War, the Golden Triangle supplied the world with most of its heroin. After that war ended in 1975, an intriguing event took place in 1979 when Zbigniew Brzezinski covertly manipulated the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan.Behind the scenes, the CIA, along with Pakistan’s ISI, were secretly funding Afghanistan’s mujahideen to fight their Russian foes. Prior to this war, opium production in Afghanistan was minimal. But according to historian Alfred McCoy, an expert on the subject, a shift in focus took place. “Within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer.”
On October 29, 2001, while the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime’s ambassador in Islamabad gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat’s right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. Like the ambassador, Popal wore a black turban, and he had a huge bushy beard. He had a black patch over his right eye socket, a prosthetic left arm and a deformed right hand, the result of injuries from an explosives mishap during an old operation against the Soviets in Kabul.
But Popal was more than just a former mujahedeen. In 1988, a year before the Soviets fled Afghanistan, Popal had been charged in the United States with conspiring to import more than a kilo of heroin. Court records show he was released from prison in 1997.
Flash forward to 2009, and Afghanistan is ruled by Popal’s cousin President Hamid Karzai. Popal has cut his huge beard down to a neatly trimmed one and has become an immensely wealthy businessman, along with his brother Rashid Popal, who in a separate case pleaded guilty to a heroin charge in 1996 in Brooklyn. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals’ private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan’s enterprises, key to the war effort, is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies.
Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahedeen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.
In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. “It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.
A secret military directive signed last September 30 by General David Petraeus, the Centcom commander, authorizes a vast expansion of secret U.S. military special ops from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East to Central Asia and “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran,” according to the New York Times.
The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.
Officials said that many top commanders, General Petraeus among them, have advocated an expansive interpretation of the military’s role around the world, arguing that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.
The order, which an official said was drafted in close coordination with Adm. Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command, calls for clandestine activities that “cannot or will not be accomplished” by conventional military operations or “interagency activities,” a reference to American spy agencies.
The real secret of Petraeus' "success" at counterinsurgency is payola. As commander of the 101st Airborne in Mosul, "he bought everybody off." The enemy "was just biding its time and building capacity, waiting him out." When Petraeus left Mosul, it went up for grabs. As top commander in Iraq, Petraeus bought everybody off again, making "a lot of deals with shady guys" who are "just laying low," so we can never leave, or the whole country will go up for grabs like Mosul did.
Odds are things will be worse if we leave than they were under Hussein, Ricks told NBC's Chris Matthews. Hussein was a toothless tyrant, but now that Petraeus has "armed everybody to the teeth" it's too dangerous to get out. We've made the Iraqi security forces strong enough that they might attempt a coup if we're not there to stop them. The surge may have averted a civil war, but one colonel tells Ricks he doesn't think "the Iraqi civil war has been fought yet," so we have to stick around so we don't miss all the fun. As Iraq becomes more secure, it moves backward. There's a "long-term trend toward increasing authoritarianism," so we have to stay in Iraq so things don't go back to the way they were under Hussein, even though, as Ricks just told us, things were better under Hussein than they are now.
Ricks says the surge is a strategic failure because it didn't bring about the unification government it was supposed to produce. But that's okay, because an analyst Ricks knows says "power-sharing is always a prelude to violence," so we have to stay in Iraq to make sure we don't achieve our strategic objective, which will be easy because "the whole notion of democracy and representative government in Iraq" was "absolutely ludicrous" from the get-go.
If you're thinking Petraeus was plotting all along to create a situation we couldn't extract ourselves from, you're right. As Ricks notes, Petraeus needed time "not to bring the war to a close, but simply to show enough genuine progress that the American people would be willing to stick with it even longer."
McChrystal also played a key role in improving Kabul's rocky relationship with Islamabad. Karzai met with Pakistan's intelligence chief recently to discuss cooperation in negotiating with Afghan Taliban leaders.
Yet Petraeus probably has as much, if not more, clout in Islamabad. He was an early proponent of a regional strategy that prioritized improving relations with Pakistan in hopes of persuading it to target the Afghan Taliban fighters who use Pakistani hideouts to plot attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Petraeus made his first trip to Pakistan in November 2008, shortly after being appointed head of Central Command. He has visited several times since, delivering assurances that the U.S. troop buildup in Afghanistan would not spill over into Pakistan, visiting Pakistani paramilitary forces in the northwestern city of Peshawar and regularly praising Pakistan's fight against its domestic Taliban, an offshoot of the Afghan Taliban.
He visited most recently in May, for the sixth time in 12 months.
"There's a complete understanding of each other's situation," a senior Pakistani military official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Pakistan had not yet offered an official reaction. "He's not a stranger."
Matt Waldman in a recently published Paper, “The Sun is in the Sky: the Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents” explores the extent of the ISI’s links and support to the problem of Afghan insurgency. Though Matt accepts that several endogenous factors are responsible for the emergence and sustenance of the Taliban, his interviews with insurgent field commanders in and around Kabul and Kandhar provide him with evidence to claim that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and strongly influences the movement. The research concentrates on two principal groups: the core Taliban movement lead by Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network led by Jalaluddin Haqqani. The Paper provides elaborate details of how the strategy, funding and operations of the two groups are dominated by ISI’s priorities and interests.
The former Binghamton University professor of sociology, James Petras, and other critics accuse the Foundation of being a front organization for the CIA. Petras names the exchange of high-ranking personnel between the CIA and the Foundation, Ford Foundation's big donations to the CIA-front Congress for Cultural Freedom, the former Foundation president Richard Bissell's relationship with DCI Allen Dulles and involvement with the Marshall Plan during the 1950s, among other things. According to Petras, the Ford Foundation funds "anti-leftist human rights groups which focus on attacking human rights violations of U.S. adversaries".
Another American academic, Joan Roelofs, in "Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism" (State University of New York Press, 2003) argues that Ford and similar foundations play a key role in co-opting opposition movements: "While dissent from ruling class ideas is labeled 'extremism' and is isolated, individual dissenters may be welcomed and transformed. Indeed, ruling class hegemony is more durable if it is not rigid and narrow, but is able dynamically to incorporate emergent trends." She reports that John J. McCloy, while chairman of the Foundation's board of trustees from 1958 to 1965, "...thought of the Foundation as a quasi-extension of the U.S. government. It was his habit, for instance, to drop by the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington every couple of months and casually ask whether there were any overseas projects the NSC would like to see funded." Roelofs also charges that the Ford Foundation financed counter-insurgency programs in Indonesia and other countries.
Many accounts of the Afghan conflict misapprehend the nature of the relationship between Pakistan’s security services and the insurgency. The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with some assistance provided by elements within, or linked to,Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) or military.